How to Get Started with Home Automation

20 April 2017

Home Automation
Home Automation
Home automation can make your life more convenient and enjoyable by using technology to make everyday items in your home “smart”. However, the home automation market is highly fragmented with lots of vendors using different technology for different systems, many of them not compatible with each another. So where should you start with home automation? This post will help in answering this question by looking at what you want to automate (now and in the future), how to do it and how to control it.

What do you want to automate?

You may already have ideas in mind about what you want to automate. Maybe it’s just your lighting or heating initially, but it’s worth considering now what you may want to automate in the future. The most popular devices to make smart are:
  • Heating and cooling systems
  • Lighting systems (include bulbs, lamps, sockets and switches)
  • Security systems, cameras and door locks
  • Kitchen appliances
  • Cleaning appliances
  • Outdoor appliances

Automating heating and cooling systems

Automating your heating and cooling system can be done with a smart thermostat that is connected to your system. You can also use smart radiator valves to control individual room temperatures. The primary difference between smart thermostats and radiator valves and their regular counterparts is that the former can “learn” and programme themselves based on how you use them. They can also take into account other factors such as when you’re home (by connecting to your mobile phone for its location), the season, and the weather.
Energenie MiHome Smart Radiator Valves Smart Radiator Valves
Philips Hue Smart Lighting Smart Lighting

Smart lighting

The most sophisticated smart lighting requires the purchase of smart light bulbs, lamps or spotlights. The colour and brightness can then be controlled and programmed remotely via smartphone apps and wireless controls and switches, in addition to being programmed to respond to certain conditions, such as the time of day or your location, or even when the International Space Station is overhead! You can also use smart switches and plug sockets to control regular lighting. This is a cheaper but less functional alternative.

Security systems, cameras and locks

If you are going to buy a smart home security system, you can either purchase a do-it-yourself system that you install and monitor yourself, or pay a company to install and monitor a system for you. The individual components range from door sensors, door locks, security cameras, doorbell cameras and intercoms, which can all be connected via the internet and controlled and monitored from anywhere in the world with an internet connection.

Smart kitchen appliances

Fridges, ovens, smokers, ice cream makers, coffee machines; all are available as connected, smart appliances. Taking cookers as an example, you could load the ingredients in the morning and turn on the cooker from your phone when you’re ready, as well as receive a notification when your food is cooked.

Smart cleaning and outdoor appliances

Who doesn’t want someone else to vacuum and polish the floors, mow the lawn and water the flowers? All can be “outsourced” to a machine. Appliances such as these are arguably the most useful and offer the biggest savings in time. They are also, unsurprisingly, amongst the most expensive.

Controlling your home automation system

When you’ve decided what to automate to begin with and with an eye on what you may want to acquire in the future, you can choose how you will control your smart devices. All smart devices can be controlled with their own native applications and hardware, usually via your smartphone or a supplied remote control. This offers the maximum amount of control. However, the downside is you can only control one device per controller, requiring multiple apps and controls. This is where investing in a control hub comes into consideration.

Control hubs for home automation

A central control hub for your home automation setup is a device that is compatible with all of the smart devices in your home. This offers the obvious convenience of being able to control everything through a single hub, tying all of your disparate systems together into one complete system. The downside of using a hub is that you do not tend to get as many features as you would if using the controls for the individual systems. If you only have two different systems in your home, then investing in a hub wouldn’t be worth the expense; however it would be a wise purchase if running several home automation solutions. You would simply complete the initial setup using the native controls, and then use the hub to control the devices on a day-to-day basis. A great feature of control hubs is that good ones can be retro-fitted when you need them, so even if you don't purchase one immediately, keep them in mind when purchasing your home automation devices. When choosing a hub, take into account how many different systems it is compatible with, and how this ties into your future plans.

Final thoughts on home automation

With an industry as large and fragmented as home automation, it is important to do your research. Think about what you want to achieve, and purchase smart products that are compatible with a central control hub that appeals to you.